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Type Stealth Air Superiority Fighter
Manufacturer Lockheed Martin
Maiden flight November 19, 1990
Introduced December 15, 2005
Status Active service
Primary user United States Air Force
Unit cost US$120 million as of 2006
Variants X-44 MANTA
The F-22 Raptor is a stealth fighter aircraft. It was originally envisioned as an air superiority fighter for use against the air force of the Soviet Union, but is equipped for ground attack, electronic attack and signals intelligence roles as well. Long in development, the aircraft was also known as the prototype YF-22 and as the F/A-22 for three years before formally entering United States Air Force service in December 2005 as the F-22A. Lockheed Martin's Aeronautics division is the prime contractor and is responsible for the majority of the airframe, weapon systems and final assembly of the F-22. Boeing's Integrated Defense Systems division provides the wings, aft fuselage and avionics integration.
Intended to be the leading American advanced tactical fighter in the early part of the 21st century, the Raptor is the world's most expensive fighter to date costing about US$120 million per unit, or US$361 million per unit when development costs are added. Part of the reason for the decrease in the requirement is that the F-35 Lightning II uses much of the technology used on the F-22, but at a much more affordable price. To a large extent the cost of these technologies is only lower for the F-35 because they have already been developed for the F-22. Had the F-22 not been developed, the costs of these technologies for the F-35 would have been significantly higher.
YF-22 'Lightning II'
The YF-22 was a developmental aircraft that led to the to F-22; however, there are significant differences between the YF-22 and the F-22. Relocation of cockpit, structural changes, and many other smaller changes exist between the two types (see comparison image). The two are sometimes confused in pictures, often at angles where it is difficult see certain features. For example, there are some F-22 with pitot booms which some think are only found on the YF-22 (such as pictured at end of article). The YF-22 was originally given the unofficial name "Lightning II" by Lockheed, which persisted until the mid-1990s. For a short while, the plane was also dubbed "Rapier". The F-35 later received the Lightning II name on 7 July 2006.
The prototype YF-22 won a fly-off competition against the Northrop/McDonnell-Douglas YF-23 for the Advanced Tactical Fighter contract. In April 1992, during flight testing after contract award, the first YF-22A prototype crashed while landing at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The test pilot, Tom Morgenfeld, was not injured and the cause of the crash was found to be a flight control software error that allowed and created a pilot-induced oscillation.
The 27th Fighter Squadron at Langley Air Force Base is the first squadron to receive the F-22A.
The YF-22 was renamed to F-22 and formally became the "Raptor" when the first production-representative plane was unveiled on 9 April 1997 at Lockheed-Georgia Co., Marietta, Georgia. First flight occurred on 7 September 1997.
F-22 to F/A-22 to F-22 again
In September 2002, Air Force leaders changed the Raptor’s designation to F/A-22. The new designation, which mimicked that of the Navy’s F/A-18 Hornet, was intended to highlight plans to give the Raptor a ground-attack capability amid intense debate over the relevance of the expensive air-superiority jet. This was later changed back to simply F-22 on December 12, 2005. On December 15, 2005, the F-22A entered service.
The first production F-22 was delivered to Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, on 14 January 2003. F-22 Dedicated Initial Operational Test and Evaluation occurred on 27 October 2004. As of late 2004, 51 Raptors were in service, with 22 more ordered under fiscal year 2004 funding. The first crash of a production F-22 occurred at Nellis Air Force Base on 20 December 2004, during takeoff. The pilot ejected safely moments before impact. The crash investigation revealed that a brief interruption in power during an engine shutdown prior to flight caused a malfunction in the flight-control system. The technical data for the aircraft has been amended to avoid this problem in the future. USAF officials were planning to rebuild the remains into a new jet.
F-22 Raptor displaying its F119 engines
Pratt & Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofans with afterburners incorporate thrust vectoring. Thrust vectoring is in the pitch axis only, with a range of ±20 degrees. The maximum thrust is classified, though most sources place it at about 35,000 lbf (156 kN). Maximum speed is estimated to be Mach 1.72 in supercruise mode and without external weapons; with afterburners, it is “greater than Mach 2.0” (2120 km/h), according to Lockheed Martin. The Raptor can easily exceed its design speed limits, particularly at low altitudes; max-speed alerts help prevent the pilot from exceeding the limits. Gen. John P. Jumper, U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff, September 6, 2001 to September 2, 2005, flew the Raptor faster than Mach 1.7 without afterburners on January 13, 2005. The absence of variable intake ramps may make speeds greater than Mach 2.0 unreachable, but there is no evidence to prove this. Such ramps would be used to prevent engine surge, but the intake itself may be designed to prevent this. Former Lockheed Raptor chief test pilot Paul Metz says the Raptor has a fixed inlet. Paul Metz has also stated that the F-22 has a top speed greater than 1600 mph (Mach 2.42) and its climb rate is faster than the F-15 Eagle. This is because the F-22 is one of the few fighter aircraft with a thrust to weight ratio significantly greater than 1:1.
The true top-speed of the F-22 is largely unknown, as engine power is only one factor. The ability of the airframe to withstand the stress and heat from friction is a key factor, especially in an aircraft using as many polymers as the F-22. However, while some aircraft are faster on paper, the internal carriage of its standard combat load allows the aircraft to reach comparatively higher performance with a heavy load over other modern aircraft due to its lack of drag from external stores. It is one of a handful of aircraft that can sustain supersonic flight without the use of afterburner augmented thrust. The fuel usage from using afterburner greatly reduces flight time.
The F-22 is highly maneuverable, at both supersonic and subsonic speeds. The usage of the F-22's thrust vectoring nozzles allows the aircraft to turn tightly, and perform extremely high alpha maneuvers such as Pugachev's Cobra and the Kulbit. The F-22 is also capable of maintaining a constant angle of attack of over 60°.
Avionics include Raytheon and Northrop Grumman AN/APG-77 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, possibly the most capable radar in active service, with both long-range target acquisition and low probability of interception of its own signals by enemy aircraft.
Two F-22s, the one on top being the first EMD F-22, Raptor 01
The first USAF squadron to operate F-22A's was the 43rd Fighter Squadron, at Tyndall AFB, Florida. The 43rd was re-established at Tyndall in 2002, and, in 2003, with a corps of 15 Raptor Instructor Pilots, began training student Raptor pilots for the 27th Fighter Squadron at Langley AFB, Virginia. The 43rd continues to produce new Raptor pilots, and will continually serve as the focal point for all F-22 training of combat USAF Raptor pilots and maintainers. Additionally Raptor units include the 422 Test and Evaluation Squadron, which is responsible for tactics development and evaluation for the F-22, and the 412th Test Squadron, which continues to fly developmental test of F-22 enhancements and modernization. The 27th Fighter Squadron became the first deployable F-22 unit in December 2005 after receiving sufficient numbers of trained Raptor pilots from the 43rd at Tyndall. The 94th Fighter Squadron, also at Langley, will be the second combat Raptor squadron. Additional squadrons will follow at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska (90th Fighter Squadron), Hickam AFB, Hawaii (199th Fighter Squadron and 531st Fighter Squadron), and Holloman AFB, New Mexico. The 27th Fighter Squadron from Langley Air Force Base flew the first F-22A operational mission in January of 2006 in support of Operation Noble Eagle (ONE).
F-22A Raptors over Utah in their first official deployment, October 2005
The United States Air Force originally planned to order 750 ATFs, with production beginning in 1994. The 1990 Major Aircraft Review altered the plan to 648 aircraft beginning in 1996. The goal changed again in 1994, when it became 442 planes entering service in 2003 or 2004. A 1997 Department of Defense report put the purchase at 339. In 2003, the Air Force said that the existing congressional cost cap limited the purchase to 277. In 2006, the Pentagon is saying it will buy 183 aircraft, which would save $15 billion but raise the cost of each plane. This plan has been de facto approved by Congress in the form of a multi-year procurement plan, which still holds open the possibility for new orders past that point. Lockheed Martin has stated that it would need to know by FY 2009 whether more planes would be bought, to place orders for long-lead items.
In April 2006 the cost for each F-22A is assessed by the Government Accountability Office to be $361 million per aircraft. This cost reflects the F-22A total program cost, divided by the number of jets the Air Force is programmed to buy. So far, the Air Force has invested as much as $28 billion in the Raptor's research, development and testing. That money, referred to as a "sunk cost", is already spent and is separate from money used for future decision-making, including procuring a copy of the jet.
By the time all 183 jets have been purchased, around $28 billion will have been spent on research and development, with an additional $34 billion spent on actually procuring the aircraft. This will result in a cost of about $339 million per aircraft including program. The current cost, or "fly away cost" for one additional F-22 stands at about $120 million (a.k.a. incremental cost). If the Air Force were to buy 100 more F-22s today, each plane would be less than $117 million and would continue to drop with additional aircraft purchases.
The F-22 is not the most expensive plane aloft; that distinction likely belongs to the roughly $2.2 billion-per-unit B-2 Spirit; though the incremental cost was under 1 Billion USD. In fairness, orders for the B-2 went from hundreds to a couple dozen when the Cold War ended thus making the unit-cost skyrocket. The F-22 uses fewer radar absorbent materials than the B-2 or F-117, which is expected to translate into lower maintenance costs.
Proposed foreign sales
Like many past tactical fighters for a long period, the opportunity for export is currently non-existent because the export sale of the F-22 is barred by federal law. There was a time in the 1970s when the then-new F-16 had many restrictions also. However, regardless of restrictions, very few allies would even be considered for export sale because it is such a sensitive and expensive system. Most current customers for US fighters are either acquiring earlier designs like the F-15 or F-16 or are waiting to acquire the JSF, which contains much of the F-22's technology but is designed to be cheaper and more flexible.
More recently Japan reportedly showed some interest in buying F-22As in its Replacement-Fighter program for its Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF). In such an event, it would most likely involve a ‘watered down' version while still retaining most of its advanced avionics and stealth characteristics. However, such a proposal would still need approval from the Pentagon, State Department and Congress.
Some Australian defense commentators have proposed that Australia purchase F-22 aircraft instead of the F-35. This proposal is supported by the Australian Labor Party, which is Australia's main opposition party, on the grounds that the F-22 is a proven and highly capable aircraft while the F-35 is still under development. The Australian Government, however, has ruled out seeking the purchase of F-22s on the grounds that it is unlikely to be released for export and does not meet Australia's requirements for a strike aircraft.
In a joint conference between the US House of Representatives and the Senate on September 27, 2006, the ban on F-22 Raptor foreign sales was upheld.
Based on the F-22, the swing-wing Navalized Advanced Tactical Fighter (NATF) was proposed for the U.S. Navy as a navalized version of the F-22 to replace the F-14 Tomcat, though the program was subsequently cancelled in 1993. Another more recent proposal is the FB-22, which would be used as a deep strike bomber for the USAF. There has yet to be any word on whether the USAF plans further development of the program. Also, the X-44 MANTA, short for Multi-Axis, No-Tail Aircraft, is an experimental aircraft which itself is an F-22 with enhanced thrust vectoring controls and no aerodynamic backup (i.e. the aircraft is controlled solely by thrust vectoring, without rudders, ailerons, or elevators). It is scheduled to be tested some time in 2007.
The AN/APG-77 AESA radar, designed for air-superiority and strike operations, features a low-observable, active-aperture, electronically-scanned array that can track multiple targets in all kinds of weather. The AN/APG-77 changes frequencies more than 1,000 times per second to reduce the chance of being intercepted. The radar can also focus its emissions to overload enemy sensors, giving the plane an electronic-attack capability.
The radar’s information is processed by the two Raytheon-built Common Integrated Processor (CIP)s. Each CIP operates at 10.5 billion instructions per second and has 300 megabytes of memory. Information can be gathered from the radar and other onboard and offboard systems, filtered by the CIP, and offered in easy-to-digest ways on several cockpit displays, enabling the pilot to remain on top of complicated situations. The Raptor’s software is composed of over 1.7 million lines of code, most of which concerns processing data from the radar.
Although several recent Western fighters have had measures introduced to make them less detectable on radar, such as radar absorbent material coated S shaped intake ducts that shield the compressor fan from reflecting radar waves, the F-22A design has placed a much higher degree of importance on making the plane more difficult to detect than has previously been seen in fighter designs.
The Raptor is designed to carry air-to-air missiles in internal bays to avoid disrupting its stealth capability. Launching missiles requires opening the weapons bay doors for less than a second, as the missiles are pushed clear of the airframe by hydraulic arms. The plane can also carry bombs such as the JDAM and the new SDB. It can carry weapons on four external hardpoints, but this vastly decreases the plane’s stealthiness, maneuverability, speed and range. The Raptor carries a General Electric M61A2 Vulcan 20 mm Gatling cannon, also with a trap door, in the right wing root. The M61A2 is a last ditch weapon, and carries only 480 rounds, enough ammunition for approximately three seconds of sustained fire.
There have been some design studies of the possibility of placing a laser weapon, possibly derived from the THEL program, inside the weapons bay.
As other air forces upgrade capabilities in the areas of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions, one key aspect of the Raptor must be kept in mind. Its very high sustained cruise speeds, and operational altitude (something that is often ignored), add tremendously to the effective range of both air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions. Indeed, these factors could provide a strong rationale as to why USAF has not pursued long-range, high-energy air-to-air missiles such as the MBDA Meteor. However the USAF plans to procure the AIM-120D which will have a significant increase in range compared to the current AMRAAM series. The launch platform, in this case, provides the additional specific impulse to the missile. This speed and altitude characteristic also helps improve the range of air-to-ground ordnance. While specific figures remain classified, it is expected that JDAMs employed by F-22s will have twice or more the effective range of munitions dropped by legacy platforms. In testing, a Raptor dropped a 1000 lb. JDAM from 50,000 feet, while cruising at Mach 1.5, striking a moving target 24 miles away. The SDB, as employed from the F-22, should see even greater increases in effective range, due to the improved lift to drag ratio of these weapons.
While in its air-superiority configuration the F-22 carries its weapons internally, it is not limited to this option. The wings are capable of supporting detachable hardpoints. Each hardpoint is theoretically capable of handling 5,000lbs of ordnance. However usage of external stores greatly compromises the F-22 stealth, and has a detrimental effect on maneuverability. As many as two of these hardpoints are "plumbed" allowing the usage of external fuel tanks. The hardpoints are detachable in flight allowing the fighter to regain its stealth once these external stores are exhausted. Currently there is research being conducted to develop a stealth ordnance pod and hardpoints for it. Such a pod would comprise a stealth shape and carry its weapons internally. Then would split open when launching a missile or dropping a bomb. Both the pod and hardpoints could be detached when no longer needed. This system would allow the F-22 to carry its maximum ordnance load while remaining stealth albeit at a loss of maneuverability. However there is concern over this program as external carriage of fuel tanks has shown more stress placed on the wings than originally anticipated.
Cruise altitude is a huge factor in performance. The F-22 is the first tactical aircraft to significantly increase sustained cruise altitudes within the last forty years or more.
An F-22 refuels from a KC-135; the attachment on the back top is for a spin recovery chute
F-22 testing has been curtailed to save program costs, but risks hiding flaws until a point at which fixing flaws becomes unaffordable. The US Government Accounting Office cautions, "Moreover, engine and stealthiness problems already disclosed by the DoD, and the potential for avionics and software problems, underscore the need to demonstrate the weapon system’s performance through flight testing before significant commitments are made to production."
Raptor 4001 was retired and sent to Wright-Patterson AFB to be fired at for testing the fighter's survivability. Usable parts of 4001 would be used to make a new F-22. Another EMD F-22 was also retired and likely to be sent to be rebuilt. A testing aircraft was converted to a maintenance trainer at Tyndall AFB.
Due to the F-15's performance in the first Persian Gulf War, critics of the F-22A claim that the F-15 is already the best fighter in the skies and the F-22A wouldn't be necessary. This view, however, was dismissed by the USAF.
On April 24, 2006, a presentation from 1st Maintenance Group, Langley AFB, was released on the SpaceRef Website, reporting a complete failure of the canopy, trapping the pilot for approximately 5 hours. With no other options left, the canopy was cut by fire department personnel leaving $182,205 canopy replacement costs, not considering the further damage to the aircraft.
On May 3, 2006, a report was released detailing a problem with a forward titanium boom on the aircraft that was not properly heat treated. The flaw can shorten the aircraft's life. Officials are still investigating the problem. The problem was caused by the boom portion not being subjected to high temperatures in the factory for long enough. This caused the boom to be less ductile than specified, shortening the lives of the first 80 or so F-22s. Work is underway to fix these F-22s and restore them to full life expectancy.
The current F-22A fleet is undergoing modifications at Hill AFB and at Palmdale, CA. There will be 17 modifications before it re-enters service.
An F-22A Raptor observes as an F-15 Eagle banks left. The F-22A is slated to replace the F-15C/D.
The F-22 is claimed by several sources to be the world’s most effective air-superiority fighter; one example is Air Marshal Angus Houston, chief of the Australian Defence Force, and former head of the Royal Australian Air Force, who said in 2004 that the "F-22 will be the most outstanding fighter plane ever built.". US government secrecy makes comparisons with other aircraft difficult. Among its advantages are its sustained high speed and altitude capabilities, thrust vectoring, sensors, stealth features, advanced avionics, and ability to receive data from other U.S. systems.
Though exceptional maneuverability for a stealth aircraft seems unneeded, Lockheed Martin and USAF decided that the Raptor should prepare against all threats. Notably, in the past, similar assumptions about the unimportance of maneuverability for the F-4 Phantom II turned out to be incorrect; the more so for anti-aircraft systems like S-400 which may be capable of detecting stealth planes since there is information exchange with neighbour radars, which observe appropriate zone via different angle and form of signal. In March 2005, USAF Chief of Staff General John P. Jumper, then the only person to have flown both the Typhoon and the Raptor, talked about these two aircraft. He said that "the Eurofighter is both agile and sophisticated, but is still difficult to compare to the F-22 Raptor". "They are different kinds of airplanes to start with," the general said. "It's like asking us to compare a NASCAR car with a Formula 1 car. They are both exciting in different ways, but they are designed for different levels of performance."
In early 2006, after an exercise involving just eight F-22s in Nevada in Nov. 2005, Lieutenant Colonel Jim Hecker, commander of the 27th Fighter Squadron (FS) at Langley AFB, Virginia, commented to Jane's Defence Weekly (Jan. 18, 2006), "We killed 33 F-15Cs and didn't suffer a single loss. They didn't see us at all."
In June 2006 during Exercise Northern Edge (Alaska's largest joint military training exercise), the F-22A Raptor achieved a 108-to-zero kill-to-loss ratio against F-15s, F-16s and F/A-18s simulating SU-27/30 aircraft, while at times the F-22A being outnumbered 4 to 1.
Specifications (F-22 Raptor)
F-22 with pitot boom
Data from USAF, F-22 Raptor Team Website
Length: 62 ft 1 in (18.90 m)
Wingspan: 44 ft 6 in (13.56 m)
Height: 16 ft 8 in (5.08 m)
Wing area: 840 ft˛ (78.04 m˛)
Airfoil: NACA 64A?05.92 root, NACA 64A?04.29 tip
Empty weight: 31,670 lb (14 366 kg)
Loaded weight: 55,352 lb (25 107 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 80,000 lb (36 288 kg)
Powerplant: 2× Pratt & Whitney F119-PW-100 Pitch vectoring turbofans, 35,000 lb class (155.74 kN) each
- Maximum speed: "Mach 2 class" (USAF), >~Mach 2.42, ~1,600 mph (according to Paul Metz, test pilot) (~2575 km/h) at high altitude
- Cruise speed: >Mach 1.72, 1,140 mph (1830 km/h) at high altitude
- Range: ferry 2,000 mi (3200 km)
- Service ceiling: >60,000 ft (>18 000 m)
- Rate of climb: ft/min (m/s)
- Wing loading: lb/ft˛ (kg/m˛)
- Thrust/weight: 1.26
- Maximum g-load: 9.5 g
USAF poster overview of key features and armament
- Guns: 1× M61A2 Vulcan 20 mm Gatling gun in starboard wing root with 480 rounds
- Air to air loadout:
- 6× AIM-120 AMRAAM
- 2× AIM-9 Sidewinder
- Air to ground loadout:
- 2× AIM-120 AMRAAM and
- 2× AIM-9 Sidewinder and one of the following:
- 2× 1,000 lb JDAM or
- 2× Wind Corrected Munitions Dispensers (WCMDs) or
- 8× 250 lb GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs
Note: It is estimated that internal bays can carry about 2,000 lb (907 kg) worth of bombs, and/or missiles. Four external hardpoints can be fitted to carry weapons or fuel tanks, each with a capacity of about 5,000 lb (2268 kg), while compromising, to a certain extent, the aircraft's stealth. Some armament is still largely classified. Aircraft in this size class since the F-105 have historically met a requirement of carrying maximum external payloads in the range of 14,000-15,000 lb with combat loads typically closer to 4,000-8,000 lb
- USAF FY 2007 Budget Estimates
- Gerry Carmen, Rapped in the Raptor: why Australia must have the best. The Age, 2 October 2006.
- Kim Beazley.Media Statement, 26 June 2006.
- Air Force Magazine, USAF Almanac, May 2006
- Factsheets: F-22A Raptor. Air Force Link. United States Air Force (2005). Retrieved on 2006-04-18.
- Flight Test Data. F-22 Raptor Team Website (2006). Retrieved on 2006-04-18.
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